Tag Archives: Questions

teaching about sea turtles in science curriculum in early childhood classrooms from P-2

readilearn: Teaching about living things in early childhood classrooms – turtles

Teaching about living things has an important place in early childhood classrooms. In the science curriculum in their first few years of school, children learn

  • What is a living thing
  • Needs of living things
  • Features of living things
  • Life stages of living things

I have previously written about keeping and observing minibeasts in the classroom, learning about life on a farm, learning about living things – sea turtles, and observing animals in the local environment. In addition to the teaching ideas suggested in the blog posts, there are many resources in the science collection to assist you with your work.

Let's find out abut sea turtles is an interactive digital non-fiction texts about sea turtles, for children in their first three years of school

This week, in celebration of World Turtle Day on 23 May and World Environment Day coming up on 5 June, I have uploaded new resources to support learning about sea turtles and the existing non-fiction digital text Let’s find out about Sea Turtles.

Continue reading: readilearn: Teaching about living things in early childhood classrooms – turtles

Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age – Readilearn

The development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills can be encouraged in children, even before they start school, by parents who are attuned to opportunities for learning.

I’ve previously introduced you to Rebecca Johnson, Narinda Sandry, Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet with their books and suggestions for including STEM in early childhood classroom learning, and soon I will be interviewing Andrew King about his beautiful Engibear series of picture books that focus on the engineering component in STEM. These supplement my own posts about incorporating STEM in the classroom here and here.

In this post, I share with you Five things parents can do every day to help develop stem skills from a young age by Kym Simoncini Assistant Professor in Early Childhood and Primary Education, University of Canberra. This article was first published in The Conversation. Throughout Kym’s article, you will notice links to other articles. Be sure to follow the links for even more great ideas and resources.

Now over to Kym Simoncini, University of Canberra

Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM

skills from a young age

Educators and researchers agree early literacy experiences are important for children’s cognitive and language development. For the past 30 years there has been a strong movement to foster children’s literacy skills. This has resulted in an abundance of information on how parents can do this by reading books, singing songs and nursery rhymes, playing word games and noticing print.

This is a good thing and should continue, given the importance of early literacy skills in learning to read, and how this leads to later success in school and life.

Continue reading: Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age – Readilearn

A long shot

I love the opportunity of finding out something I didn’t know before, and because there is so much  that I don’t know, the opportunities seem to arise quite frequently. Perhaps if I’d taken more advantage of them in earlier years, there’d be less for me to know now, and I’d be more help on a trivia team.

Curiosity is an essential ingredient to learning and it is important for parents and teachers to encourage it in children, as well as themselves. Providing children with the opportunity of asking questions and helping them find out about what they want to know helps keep curiosity alive. Michael Rosen’s book Good Ideas: How to be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher has many wonderful suggestions for doing just that. I wrote about that before here and here.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt increasingly challenged by the flash fiction prompts dished out by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. This week she had me (almost) completely stumped with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a (story) that includes the word longhorn. Charli’s in Kansas at the moment, and her reference is to longhorn cattle, a breed not familiar to most Australians. I was aware of a longhorn beetle, but knew little about them too.

Observing photographs of longhorn cattle, these were my thoughts:

  • Aren’t those horns heavy? How do they hold their heads up?
  • Wouldn’t the horns be dangerous – to the horn owner, as well as to others?
  • What would happen if the animals tried to move through scrub? They could get caught between trees, or knock their horns off.
  • What is the purpose of the long horns?
  • Imagine giving birth to something with horns like that!
  • Are they bred for beef or diary?

How could I write anything without doing a little research?

Fortunately, research is no longer as difficult as it was when I was a child. Press a few buttons on the computer, and a world of information awaits. My first stop was Wikipedia, but I investigated other sites too, including The Longhorn Cattle Society and Texas Longhorns. Here’s some of what I discovered in answer to my questions:

  • Longhorns are the descendants of the first cattle to arrive in the Americas with Christopher Columbus and Spanish colonists. Many escaped or were set free on the plains and were mostly feral for about two hundred years.
  • Horns form part of the skull and are difficult to weigh on a live animal. As the horns may continue to grow for several years, there are some differences, and steer horns are usually longer (and presumably heavier) that those of bulls and cows.
  • Horns start to grow at about three weeks. Phew – after birth! In fact, The Longhorn Cattle Society states that the cows are great breeders and have few calving problems.
  • Although the cattle may appear dangerous with their large horns, they are actually quite docile. However, they may experience damage to their horns if they are kept in confined spaces.
  • According to Texas Longhorns, the horns are considered non-functional. I can’t imagine walking around with something that appears so heavy and unwieldy on my head, just for adornment!
  • The cattle have many advantages, just some of which include ease of breeding, longevity and disease resistance. They produce lean meat and cheese has been produced from their milk.
  • There are some Longhorns in Australia, even an association for Texas Longhorns.

In my explorations, I was surprised to find this article which tells of an Australian Longhorn JR that earned a position in the 2013 Guinness Book of Records for the longest horns.

JR was pipped at the post in 2014 by Lazy J’s Bluegrass with horns measuring 297.8 cm (117.25 in)

Watch Bluegrass here.

The owner says his horns probably weigh about 200 to 300 lbs (90 to 136 kg)!

I hope you enjoyed finding out about longhorn cattle as much as I did. Or maybe you already knew. When I read that many of the cattle had escaped or been released onto the plains by early settlers, I was reminded of the cow experience on the farm when I was a child.

Holy Cow! It’s a long shot

The enclosure was built, the hay delivered, the trough filled. We children watched from the rails, as Dad and Mum manoeuvred Cow #1 into the yard.

Everyone clambered to be first to milk her.

“We can all milk her – in the morning,” assured Dad.

But in the morning, the cow was gone. The gate lay crumpled on the ground.

A stronger gate contained Cow #2, but she squeezed under the fence.

More repairs must secure Cow #3? She jumped over to flee.

Defeated, Mum replenished her powdered supply, and we kids never learned to milk.

Should’ve got a longhorn?

For a fun picture book (also based on a true story) about a cow, without any horns, check out A Particular Cow written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Terry Denton. It’s hilarious!

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Of puddles and rainbows

wonder-socrates

In her beautiful picture book Once Upon a Picture Sally Swain asks readers to wonder about famous artworks by Renoir, Klee, Van Gogh, and Rousseau.

once-upon-a-picture

I am very much in favour of wonder, and have written about it before in

Is it any wonder? about reclaiming your right to wonder;

Breathe – a sense of wonder! about watching nature close-up with live butterfly kits in the classroom;

Wondering in the everyday reminds us to pause and observe our surroundings; and

Noticing and Wondering: Kicking off and supporting enquiry shares a post in which Aaron Eden on Edunautics, Exploring a World of Learning questions whether there could be any skills more important than noticing and wondering.

questioning-einstein

This week Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch got me wondering about rainbow puddles with her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle. Is it a silver lining of sorts or a false reflection? Think about what it might mean or convey. Simple science? Hope? Or the doom of humankind? Create action or character reflection.

I wasn’t sure if rainbows would be seen in puddles that weren’t coated with oil, but it did make me wonder.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Umbrellas ca. 1881-86

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Umbrellas ca. 1881-86

Sally Swain invites readers to wonder about the girl with the hoop in Renoir’s painting “The Umbrellas”. Swain asks, “What does she want to do? Play?” and illustrates her thoughts with pictures of the girl playing in the muddy puddles that are inevitable on a rainy day. There is not a hint of rainbow though.

Rainbows are common in works for children.

rainbow-fish

There is the beautiful series of Rainbow Fish books by Marcus Pfister with a simple message about the joy of sharing, of making oneself happy by making others happy too.

There are songs such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, and Sing a Rainbow.

Rainbows are also popular for helping children learn maths facts and colours.

Of course, there is the science of rainbows too; but before the science comes the wonder: looking at rainbows in the sky, and wondering.

rainbow-wonder

When I was a kid we loved playing with the hose or in the sprinkler. Depending on the angle of the water and the sun, we could make our own rainbows, we didn’t need to wait for rain.

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This got me thinking of children who might go for years without seeing rain, or therefore a rainbow, and how exciting their first sighting might be. I have combined a few of these ideas in my flash. I hope you enjoy it.

Of puddles and rainbows

For children of the drought who had never seen rain, the gush when the pipe from the bore burst a seam was a rare opportunity for water play and unexpected learning. While Dad and his Station Hand worked to repair the hole, the children danced in puddles under the cooling spray.

“Look at the colours,” a child exclaimed, trying to capture each one. The men paused to smile at the children’s delight, remembering their own childhood glee. Mum watched from the verandah – without their precious resource, there’d be no washing off mud or cooking the dinner that night.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Monkey mischief

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Did you ever get up to mischief when you were a child? I believe I did. Or so I was told.

Mischief includes exploring, checking things out to see how they work, and generally doing stuff that inconveniences parents. Being a kid, in other words; and isn’t it a child’s main purpose in life: to inconvenience parents? Just kidding, but sometimes it can seem like that. Especially when parents are in a hurry or have other things to do and a child has other ideas in mind.

Although it may seem naughty, wilful, or defiant; young children really just want to find out about the world.

childrens-questions

Sometimes they investigate things: what will happen if I turn this knob, open this door, push this button; how does this taste or smell; how does this feel?

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Other times they are finding out about reactions: what will the cat do if I pull its tail; what will the fish do if I tip it out?

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Human reactions and relationships are also an area of intense study: how will Mum react if I take her keys; what will Dad do if I push this button; what will sister do if I take her toy?

Allowing children to explore, investigate, and experiment, while ensuring they, and no others, are in no serious physical danger, encourages their curiosity, their understanding of the world, and their innate drive to learn.

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While it can be annoying to have a child repeatedly adjust the volume of the sound system, for example, it may be better to ignore it and allow the child to discover the effect of the action. Usually once a phenomenon has been explored and understood, it will no longer fascinate, and the child will move on to something else.

Unless there is a reaction from the parent. Any reaction may encourage repetition, not so much for additional learning from the action itself, but for the interaction with the parent.

The phrase “You little monkey” is sometimes uttered when a child is engaged in some of this mischievous behaviour. It generally recognizes the harmlessness of the situation and acknowledges that the child is exploring or playing, often with the purpose of gaining attention or engaging a parent in a game.

The classic picture book Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina is a story about mischievous monkeys.  A peddler carries the caps he has for sale, one on top of the other, on top of his own cap on his head. When he takes a nap under a tree, a troop of monkeys take all the caps, except his own, and refuse to give them back. Instead of following his instructions, they copy him. When, in frustration, the peddler throws his cap on the ground, the monkeys do the same and he is able to retrieve his caps and continue on his way.

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(Another lovely story about a peddler, but without monkeys, is The Peddler’s Bed by Lauri Fortino which I wrote about here.)

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One of the first picture book apps I bought for my grandchildren was Ten Giggly Gorillas  by Graham Nunn. It’s a cute counting back story that ends happily when the last little gorilla falls and is reunited with all her friends. It’s a wonderful first app for little ones with an easy swipe action to select each gorilla, and a great story to read for beginner readers. (Apologies – gorillas aren’t monkeys, but I like the app!)

I’m thinking about monkeys because of the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. Charli is talking about flying monkeys; monkeys that were used to test supersonic ejection seats in the desert of Utah in the 1950s. She has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using flying monkeys as a device or phrase.

This is my response. I haven’t quite got the flying monkey as a device or phrase, but I hope you like it anyway.

 Monkey mischief

A no-show nanny, insistent emails, and bills to pay: the verandah seems the best solution. He can ride his trike or play with toys; with the iPad backup if necessary.

It’ll be fine, won’t take long.

Then

Incident #1: Laptop flat

Easy: Power cord

#2: Cord short, stretched high

Solution: Be watchful – won’t take long

#3: Trike stuck, wails

Extricate it

#4: Again!

Ignore attention-seeking, almost done

#5: Demands iPad monkeys

“Soon!”

#6: Snatches credit card, laughs, runs, daring

“You little monkey!”

#7 Monkey trips. Card flies, disappears between boards.

Wails.

“It’s okay, Mummy.”

Grimaces: It’ll be fine

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Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

One small step

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

It is no secret that I love having time with young children. Their development constantly amazes me. They are curious learners on a quest to find out as much as they can about the world and how it works. They are scientific researchers making observations, forming hypotheses, and drawing conclusions; always with a plan for the next step if the results aren’t what was expected.

How many times do they need to release a spoon to be confident that it will always be pulled towards the floor? How early do they laugh when something doesn’t perform as expected; for example, when a balloon floats up instead of falling down?

Many of a young child’s explorations seek answers to questions they ask of themselves; questions that may never be verbalised.

childrens-questions

After they have investigated their immediate environment, and their language begins to develop, they start to look at the wider world, and begin to ask questions about how things work and why things happen.

Here are a couple my granddaughter asked me recently:

“Norah, you know about gravity? Why do clouds stay up in the air? Why don’t they fall down?”

“If babies grow into adults, and adults give birth to babies. Which came first the baby or the mother?”

questions-children-ask

The determination and persistence of young children is also almost limitless. Watch them learning to roll, or to sit, or to stand. It is never achieved on the first attempt, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t give up. They try and try again until they do it. The look of satisfaction on their faces is priceless. No stickers are required. Sometimes, when the result differs from expectation, the look is of surprise. But even then they are quickly deciding what to do next.

Without formal instruction of any kind, in their first few years, children perform amazing feats. Without the imposition of test requirements or standardised assessment, children are driven to learn. Intrinsic rewards, accompanied by the encouragement of significant others, for example, parents, are sufficient.  Children are driven by a “yet” mindset and a belief that there is no such thing as “can’t”. This ensures they continue to practice until they succeed. Immediately they succeed, they set themselves another challenge. That is, unless they are taught otherwise.

When they are nurtured in an environment that is encouraging and supportive, with a balance of comfort and challenge, and well-timed feedback, children will thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally. They will learn through their observations and interactions with people and objects. Each question answered will stimulate the next.

These are just a few of the remarkable achievements made by children before setting foot inside any formal education establishment. They learn to

  • interact
  • roll over
  • sit up
  • crawl
  • clap hands
  • stand
  • walk
  • place things inside, and take things out of, other objects
  • feed oneself
  • talk
  • run
  • undo and do up buttons
  • push buttons (of all sorts)
  • open doors
  • play games

Given an encouraging, supportive environment with caring adults who respond to their needs, surround them with language, love them, and model behaviour, children learn amazing things.

This week at The Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an amazing feat. My response is a tribute to the amazing feats performed by little ones every day.

One small step

Everything she had ever done was preparation for this moment. All eyes were on her. The audience’s expectation was palpable, bolstering her determination. She pulled herself up to full height and looked around, smiling. The audience waited. She checked the positioning of her feet, and her balance. She held up one hand, signifying that an attempt was imminent. She put one foot forward; then raised the other hand as she brought her back foot alongside the first. She paused, poised, momentarily. Immediately cameras clicked and cheers erupted. After two more steps, she launched, triumphant, into her father’s waiting arms.

Here are photos of my two little (now big) ones. While not of their first steps, these photos were taken within the first month each of them walked.

 

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

bec-walking

© Norah Colvin

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Sharing circles

On Tuesdays I have regularly published a post and response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with it.

In that post I mentioned classroom sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas, not unlike the sharing of stories and ideas at the Carrot Ranch. In the classroom everyone in the circle is equal, with equal opportunity to see and hear, and to be seen and heard. The focus is lifted from the teacher and shared equally among class members, creating a democracy.

In this post I describe some of the sharing circles I used in my classroom and show how these processes are not all that dissimilar from our own blogging circles.

reading

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is a daily quiet reading session lasting about 15 minutes. In these sessions everyone, including the teacher, chooses a book and finds a comfortable space for reading. Some children sit at desks, some on cushions in the reading corner, others prop themselves up against the wall, and others lie on the floor.

The one rule is:

  • Everybody reads without interruption.

This means:

  • Nobody talks
  • Everybody chooses enough reading material for the session
  • No outside interruptions are permitted (unless it’s an emergency)

It is essential for the teacher to engage in personal reading, along with the children, to show that reading is valued and to provide a model of “expert reader” behaviour. Inviting other school personnel to join the session is also valuable. It is particularly important for children, who may not see adults engaged in regular sustained recreational reading at home, to see adults enjoying reading.

I always concluded my D.E.A.R. sessions with a Reader’s circle. Children would bring their books to the circle and share what they had read. While there wasn’t time for every child to share every day, I ensured each child had an opportunity of doing so at least once a week. Children would:

  • Tell the book’s title and author
  • What it was about
  • What they liked about it, and
  • Read a small section to the class

I loved the way children would look to each other’s book responses to guide their own selection, often asking others to help them find a book that had previously been talked about. We do the same in sharing and reading book reviews on our blogs.

If a love of reading is contagious, Reader’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of reading

A love of writing can be equally contagious. One of the things children enjoyed most about writing, other than the actual writing, was sharing it with others. Children would have opportunities to discuss and read their writing to each other in pairs and small groups as well as in the Writer’s circle.

Sometimes we would have a pre-writing circle to share ideas and inspiration. It was rare that anyone would leave the circle without an idea. Surprisingly perhaps, it was even rarer that two would write about the same thing. Bouncing ideas off each other seemed to encourage a diversity, rather than similarity, of ideas. I guess the responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompt demonstrate the same principle.

Post-writing circles provided opportunities to discuss what had been written and to read sections to others. Writers might share what they liked about their writing, or what they were having trouble with. Others might ask questions for clarification, to understand character motivations, or to find out what will happen next. Sometimes, with the writer’s permission, I would use a piece of writing to discuss an aspect of the writing process that would have application for many. If any children were reluctant to read their own writing, I would be more than happy to read it with them.

If a love of writing is contagious, Writer’s circle is one of the best ways of spreading the contagion.

love of writing

Discussion circles could occur at any time, in any subject on any topic where a sharing of ideas was required. I had a lovely smiley face ball that children would sometimes pass around, or across the circle, to each other, to indicate whose turn it was to talk. This ensured that everyone had an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, as well as to hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Topics could be as diverse as:

  • “I feel happy when …”
  • “When I lose a tooth …”
  • “On the holidays, I …”
  • “I think children should be able to … because …”

discussion circles

Each of these sharing circles gives children a voice, demonstrating that they, their thoughts, their ideas and their opinions are accepted and valued. Each encourages children to listen attentively and respectfully to others by providing a supportive environment in which they can test out ideas, then reflect and reassess in response to the reactions of others.

These discussions are not unlike those we engage in on our blogs; sharing books and articles read, and videos watched, along with our ideas and opinions and, most of all, our writing.

Thank you

Thank you for the opportunity of sharing mine. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.